Belgian railways pass evidence on AnsaldoBreda to prosecutor

BRUSSELS/MILAN, June 4 Tue Jun 4, 2013 2:05pm EDT

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BRUSSELS/MILAN, June 4 (Reuters) - Belgium's railway operator SNCB said it had passed on an audit of the purchase of high-speed trains from Italian manufacturer Finmeccanica to Belgium's prosecutor on Tuesday, after it raised questions relating to the procurement.

Belgium cancelled the order for three trains made by Finmeccanica unit AnsaldoBreda after the trains suffered a series of cancellations and delays when launched by Dutch railways in December.

"We're just not sure about a couple of things, there are a few questionmarks in this procurement process," said a spokesman for SNCB.

AnsaldoBreda said the high-speed Fyra trains it sold to Belgium and the Netherlands were safe, rejecting allegations by the two countries which moved this week to cancel the contract.

AnsaldoBreda, a loss-making unit of state-controlled Finmeccanica, said it would seek damages.

"The public must know that the (Fyra) train is safe and as such it has been certified and checked by the competent bodies," it said.

SNCB last Friday cancelled its order with AnsaldoBreda and said it would seek damages from the Italian company, which it had accused of producing trains that could not cope with severe cold last winter.

Dutch train operator Netherlands Railways said on Monday it would stop using the train, which suffered a series of delays when launched in December and proved so unreliable in a cold snap in January that it was withdrawn.

AnsaldoBreda said the problems that arose in January "were only a pretext to block the contract" and had emerged because the train was repeatedly driven at 250 kilometres per hour, beyond the recommended limit in case of heavy snow. (Reporting by Ben Deighton and Danilo Masoni; Editing by David Holmes)

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